Nov 7 2017
The workshop will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, from 7:30 – 9:00 pm, at the Piedmont Community Hall, 711 Highland Avenue.
The residential/transportation sector is the largest contributor to Piedmont’s Green House Gas (GHG) so the city is developing it’s next Climate Action Plan with policies that will affect land use, transportation and home construction.  
The meeting is a workshop to provide background on the Plan and obtain input so there will be a lot of back and forth with speakers and the audience
 
And there are special presentations in that regard – Chris Jones of UCB will give a brief presentation on Piedmont’s carbon footprint – this analysis was published in Science and provides new insight into residential GHG sources in Piedmont.  And Council member Tim Rood will provide an update on East Bay Community Energy – this is an energy cooperative that Piedmont joined last year that will give residents the choice to go 100% green in their home energy use.  
 
The workshop  is a great opportunity to learn more about GHG reduction steps you can take in your community.  And to provide ideas for the Climate Action Plan – for residents who want to see the city do more, now is the time to provide comment on the new Plan.
Garrett Keating, Former Councilmember
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City of Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan Presentation and Community Workshop

On November 7th, the City of Piedmont Planning Department and the Climate Action Plan Task Force will host a community workshop. The workshop will include a presentation of Piedmont’s draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) update, presentations on Piedmont’s carbon footprint, focus group discussions, and information on how Piedmont residents can act as agents of local climate change prevention and mitigation.

The Climate Action Plan Taskforce has met monthly since March to advise staff regarding updates and improvements to Piedmont’s CAP, which was completed in 2010 with goals through 2020. The revised and updated CAP consists of measures that Piedmont residents, business owners, the municipal government and the public and private schools can take to bring Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions in line with State emissions reduction targets. The updated plan incorporates current best practices, includes a new section dedicated to climate adaptation and an increased focus on community engagement, since the majority of Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by residential buildings and private vehicles.

Minutes and other materials for previous Climate Action Plan Taskforce meetings are posted on the City website at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/captf.shtml

The final draft of the Plan is expected to be provided to City Council in December of 2017 as an initial step towards the Plan’s adoption in early 2018.

For more information about the CAP or to be added to the project’s email list, please contact Assistant Planner Mira Hahn at mhahn@piedmont.ca.gov or (510) 420-3054.

Nov 6 2017

Mark Cowherd, a Piedmont High history teacher, resigned shortly after a display of Piedmont parent outrage at the October 25, 2017 School Board meeting. News media were invited to amplify that outrage and broadcast it widely. Now that the spectacle has begun to pass, and our community attempts to heal, we write to encourage us all to reflect on how our community handled this matter.

As parents, we care about the safety of our students. We are proud that four students felt empowered to voice their concerns about this teacher. In the future, we want other students to bring forward concerns about similar conduct. People around town say that students stay quiet due to fears – of retaliation in the grades they may receive or of unwanted exposure if they speak up. We worry about chilling student complaints for a different reason. Students may well have absorbed the lesson that, if they feel uncomfortable about a teacher’s conduct and lodge a complaint about it, the situation may not simply be reasonably corrected, but the teacher, one way or the other, will be summarily removed and publicly humiliated. Students may choose to stay silent to avoid the enormity of this burden.

The community must also consider the ripple effects on teaching staff. Although this particular teacher engaged in behavior uncommon in our District, other teachers may nevertheless distance themselves from students or parents. It is easy to imagine teachers feeling wary, concerned that a student’s or parent’s response to a teacher’s conduct could trigger the parent community into a fiery humiliation.

This activated parent group attacked our Administrators and our elected School Board representatives, all of whom, we believe, choose to serve our educational community because they care deeply about students and education. Parent demands, without regard to the law and without knowing all of the evidence gathered through both the District’s and the Piedmont Police investigations, could undermine District morale and confidence in educating our children going forward.

We do not believe that our school administrators, local police officers and board members, who did not ignore these students’ complaints and had access to all of the facts uncovered through their investigations, which the community at large did not, would protect a sexual “predator” and knowingly put our students at risk.

District Administrators and School Board representatives must, and did, comply with the law. After receiving the students’ complaints, the District placed the teacher on administrative leave, investigated the claims, found inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, and took disciplinary action against the teacher (privacy laws prevented the District from detailing what those actions were). The Piedmont Police apparently found no criminal conduct.

Where, as here, the investigations revealed a tenured teacher who had crossed one line (unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, including comments of a sexual nature), but had not crossed another (criminal conduct, such as sexual molestation), the teacher is allowed, under the Education Code Section 44938(a), a 45-day “opportunity to correct his or her faults and overcome the grounds for the charge.” The District provided this teacher his short window to try to redeem himself. During this time, the District monitored the teacher’s classroom to ensure student safety. The Administration also circulated numerous communications encouraging anyone with any complaints to bring them forward.

Without knowing if this teacher succeeded in correcting his conduct or what the District’s decision may have been at the end of these 45 days, which had not yet passed, parent speakers at the October 25, 2017 School Board meeting expressed their anger that Mr. Cowherd had not already been fired. We share people’s disgust about sexual harassment and sexual assault – the news about its prevalence in our society keeps coming – and we, as a society, have a lot to change. But the speakers’ references at the Board meeting to and innuendo about violence, molestation, sexual assault, and Harvey Weinstein far exceeded any allegations we have seen against Mr. Cowherd or what the District and Police investigations found. We further believe that it is both ill-considered and inappropriate to denigrate our representatives for “impotence” when they engaged fully and promptly in necessary due process, including prompt investigations, monitoring student safety, and teacher discipline.

We can all agree that Mr. Cowherd’s conduct betrayed our educational community. At the same time, we must remember to stay honorable and just when defending the honorable and just. The community must now reckon with the consequences of the parent outrage, and rebuild trust in Piedmont.

Barbara Giuffre

Rick Raushenbush, Former School Board Member

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Comments Off on OPINION: Process and Facts Required to Address Sexual Harassment
Nov 6 2017

Input is sought.

The Planning Commission will be considering revisions to land use regulations related to cannabis provided in Division 17.48 of the City Code at their regularly scheduled meeting on November 13, 2017. The Planning Commission’s responsibility is to make a recommendation that will be considered by the City Council, which is the decision-making body. The City Council is expected to consider the Commission’s recommendation and conduct a first reading of the proposed ordinance on December 4, 2017.

 Documents on the City Website

The agenda for the November 13, 2017 Planning Commission meeting and the staff report to the Commission are available on the City’s website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us. Current land use regulations related to cannabis are provided in Division 17.48 of the City Code.

“AGENDA ITEM 3. CONSIDERATION OF AN ORDINANCE REVISING THE LAND USE REGULATIONS IN CITY CODE CHAPTER 17 RELATED TO CANNABIS The Commission will hold a hearing to consider an ordinance to revise City Code Chapter 17 regarding the land use regulations related to cannabis. The proposed revisions are in response to Proposition 64, which legalizes and regulates the adult use of non-medical marijuana (recreational marijuana) in California and Senate Bill 94, known as the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MAUCRSA”), which consolidated state laws regarding medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana and introduced more uniform terminology, replacing “marijuana” with “cannabis” and “nonmedical” to “adult-use.” The Commission may take action to make a recommendation of adoption to the City Council. The proposed ordinance is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to the CEQA Guidelines, California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Chapter 3, sections: 15060(c)(2) (the activity will not result in a direct or reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment); 15060(c)(3) (the activity is not a project as defined in Section 15378); and 15061(b)(3), because the activity is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Furthermore, this action is not subject to CEQA pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 26055 (h).”

From the staff report to the Commission:

“PROPOSED REVISIONS TO CITY CODE: It is in the City’s best interest to maintain local control over all cannabis land uses to the fullest extent allowed by law. Although, the City Code currently prohibits all cannabis businesses, it will better serve the public and minimize the potential for confusion regarding the City’s policies by providing updated Code provisions regarding the scope of prohibited conduct and of permissible private cultivation that are consistent with State law. Findings H through Q in the proposed ordinance (Attachment A pages 5-10) list a number of findings that cannabis related activities allowed under MAUCRSA would cause adverse impacts on the public health, safety, and welfare in Piedmont.”

Public Engagement

The opportunity for public input is available throughout this process. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the regular meetings at which the Planning Commission and City Council will consider this item.

Questions about the project and requests to receive email notification of activities related to Zoning Code revisions should be directed to Planning Director Kevin Jackson at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov or (510) 420-3039. Written comments to the Planning Commission on this matter may be submitted care of kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov or by mail to 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611.

Members of the Piedmont Planning Commission

Roster

Council Liaison: Jennifer Cavenaugh – (510) 428-1442
Eric Behrens
Aradhana Jajodia
Jonathan Levine
Susan Ode
Tom Ramsey
Clark Thiel (Alternate)

 

Nov 5 2017

Resident Comments Requested

Piedmont’s School Board is considering options to refinance outstanding Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABS). Public input on the CAB Refinancing Options is requested as the School Board continues its discussion.

Three options to consider:
1. Status​ ​Quo​: Do not refinance at this time, but continue to monitor interest rates.
2. CAB​ ​to​ ​CAB​: This would save Piedmont taxpayers $11.3M over the life of the bonds. Tax rates would stay the same until 2027, but then would decrease until 2043.
3. CAB​ ​to​ ​CIB​ (Current Interest Rate Bonds): This would save Piedmont taxpayers $19.5M over the life of the bonds. Tax rates would stay the same until 2024, would then decrease from 2024-2034, and then would sharply decrease from 2035-2043.

Read more about the CAB Refinancing Options here.

Board of Education Members

Sarah Pearson
President
spearson@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Amal Smith
Vice President
amalsmith@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Doug Ireland
direland@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Cory Smegal
csmegal@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Andrea Swenson
aswenson@piedmont.k12.ca.us

1 Comment »
Nov 5 2017

School Board Meeting: Teacher Aides and The Departure of History Teacher –

October 25, 2017  School Board Meeting –

The School Board meets every 2 weeks, to discuss and make decisions regarding the education of all the schools in the Piedmont Unified School District. The School Board Meeting on October 25 covered the following topics: the best instructional calendar for students, the importance of teaching assistants, a request for a raise, upset parents who expressed their opinions on teacher Mark Cowherd’s inappropriate behavior with students, Mr. Cowherd’s return to school after a 3 week investigation, the H1 Bond update for the new STEAM and Alan Harvey theater, the naming of District facilities, and the options of refinancing a loan.

The first topic regarded what instructional calendar should be followed in the future. It was apparent that there were still a lot of conflicting opinions about what was the best calendar.

As a senior, I greatly appreciate our current instructional calendar, because I can send my first semester grades to colleges earlier than I would have been able to if we still followed the previous instructional calendar. However, this calendar is not just advantageous for seniors. Our current instructional calendar reduces the overall stress of students, since we do not have to worry about studying over Winter Break. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that I have forgotten a lot of the material of my classes when finals are after Winter Break. While this instructional calendar may take some time to get used to, I am confident that this calendar is best for the long run.

The next topic discussed was about  a third grade teacher at Wildwood, who has taught for 18 years. She stressed that teachers assistants (TAs) are imperative to the success of both students and teachers. This teacher’s TA helps her with rotations in math, so that the teacher can focus on two-thirds of the class, while the TA can focus helping one-third of the class. This TA also helps 3 other teachers, and also helps patrol recess. TAs assess and modify lessons to explain the big takeaways to the students they are assigned to. They also go over tests one-on-one, to ensure that the student understands the mistakes he/she made, so that he/she can learn from the mistakes. Students who need TAs the most are actually getting the least amount of help.

Those from the California School Employees Association (CSEA) started out by stating that families move to Piedmont for good education, which can only be obtained when we have qualified teachers through fairness and respect. These employees want equal pay for equal work, instead of favoring teachers who have worked in Piedmont schools for a longer period of time than they have. One Special Education teacher, who works at Piedmont High School, asked to be paid more, since it is a struggle to live in the Bay Area and he goes through a lot to continue doing a job that he loves.

Lisa Sherman, whose daughter is Natalie Stollman, introduced the topic regarding Mr. Mark Cowherd. Four students had come forward to report Mr. Cowherd’s behavior, which included sending inappropriate texts and emails, giving students harassing nicknames, consuming alcohol in front of students, and talking to students about things unrelated to school. She felt that the letter regarding Mr. Cowherd return to the classroom after a 3 week investigation felt like a slap in the face. Stollman originally thought that her complaints, along with the complaints of the 3 other girls who came forward, were taken seriously, and they felt that the situation should have been handled better.

Sherman noted that students are encouraged to speak up, yet the inaction of the School Board makes it even harder for students to speak up, especially when they feel that nothing is being done. Students have always been afraid to speak up due to the intimidating power dynamic.

Esther Rodgers, a parent of 2 boys, teaches her boys to do the right thing, even if it is against their self-interest. She pointed out that this whole Mr. Cowherd situation also impacts the boys, in addition to the girls. She felt that this was detrimental to learning, and that it creates a perception of unfairness for both boys and girls.

Pear Michaels felt that Mr. Cowherd should have been immediately fired so that he would not be able to influence the students, or that he should be on leave until everything is decided. She wondered where the practical support for the students who came forward was.

Hope Salzer found that it was troubling for students to have Mr. Cowherd as a role model. She asked that the school reexamine the school policy.

Kim Hunter, who is an Alameda County District Attorney who deals with domestic violence cases, talked about how the number one thing she teaches her kids is that violence is unacceptable. She said that this is a big deal that should not be at all marginalized.

Janice Sheldon, who was speaking for her daughter Olivia, who had graduated in 2017 and was the first to report Mr. Cowherd’s behavior, said that Olivia had broken down after the recent Euro trip and had gone to the Wellness Center. Olivia was devastated that her voice had not been heard.

Elka Sorenson’s mom spoke about how Elka dropped out of AP European History, despite the fact that she had an A in the class, because she felt uncomfortable in the class environment.

Carol James, who has a daughter who graduated in 2010 and a son who graduated in 2013, talked about how her son had been bullied by Mr. Cowherd. She noted that the data points regarding Mr. Cowherd’s behavior go much further than March of 2017.

Vincent Massullo, a healthcare professional, said that the responsibility of a teacher is super important because they influence the students greatly.

Sarah Pearson, President of the Board of Education, reminded the audience that all this information of these instances regarding Mr. Cowherd must be documented in order to be used and accounted for in the investigation.

The next topic was about naming District facilities, and a new policy governing the naming of District facilities. The Board of Education has all the naming rights for any District building or facility, but community participation is greatly encouraged in this process. Individuals can be recognized for their contributions. If one does inappropriate or immoral things, their name on a plaque can be removed. There is a public meeting before any name is made final. The Board may choose to accept “legacy” gifts.

The next topic discussed had to do with refinancing a loan, and how to save the most amount of money. This loan was will be paid for by Piedmont taxpayers (Capital Appreciation Bond) to rebuild the schools. The options are cab de cab, cab de sib, and doing nothing right now. A big factor in deciding what option to go with is the interest rate. Right now, interest rates are low. One option is to take action now and take advantage of the low rate now, or to wait in hopes of getting a lower interest rate, with the risk of the downward trend changing to an upward trend.

I interviewed Sarah Wozniak, who is the Title IX Director. She attends School Board Meetings regularly, but she also came to this meeting in particular because she knew people were going to talk about their concerns regarding Mr. Cowherd. She felt that this was a very emotional meeting, and she understands why people are confused about the decision to have Mr. Cowherd come back into the classroom after the 3 week investigation. However, she pointed out that the school does not inform the public the punishments doled out to Mr. Cowherd out of privacy for him. She felt that this meeting was good for the parents of the girls, being able to see that the community supports them. Ms. Wozniak is part of the District Team, who plan to follow up on how people are feeling about what happened, and what next steps should be taken. She is interested in working with Voice Cooperative to see what students want to do about how people can or should speak up, because there is still a lot of fear about speaking up.

by Ivana Xu, Piedmont High School Senior

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Piedmont Takes A Stand –

On October 25th, 2017, a Piedmont School Board took place in Piedmont City Hall. While this meeting was to discuss the possible refunding of Capital Appreciation Bonds, and a further update on the progress of the new school development, the people of Piedmont swarmed City Hall to discuss the disciplinary action of Mr. Cowherd.

Mr. Cowherd was a Social Studies teacher at Piedmont High School, he taught AP European History, AP US History, and Modern World History. An ongoing investigation regarding the sexual harassment allegations brought against Mr. Cowherd by a previous student at Piedmont High, led to a three week absence in September. This was later followed by his return to the classroom, with an email congratulating him back to the school. Previous rumors spread among the students as to why Mr.Cowherd was gone for three weeks. However, neither Mr. Cowherd nor Piedmont High revealed any insight on the matter.

San Francisco Bay Area CBS had more information on the details about the investigation, including the document that contained the specific allegations made against Cowherd. This list included: Repeatedly asking students to meet personally and privately, touching, grabbing, and/or holding students by their shoulders, heads, elbows, and backs, calling students nicknames that made students feel uncomfortable and harassed, sending inappropriate text messages and emails, consuming alcohol in the presence of students, making inappropriate and unprofessional comments that were interpreted to be sexual in nature, and asking inappropriate and unprofessional personal questions.

However, during the School Board meeting’s public forum many parents and advocates stepped forward complaining and stressing their frustration and irritation that Mr. Cowherd was back teaching.

One of the many speakers was Lisa Sherman. Sherman expressed extreme disappointment especially about welcoming back Mr. Cowherd after three weeks of absence. Not only was the email containing the congratulatory dialogue sent to the current students at PHS (Piedmont High School) the email and letter were sent to the families that brought the allegations. Lisa described this as a “slap in the face.”  She made her case by stating that allowing Mr. Cowherd back into the classroom would make the current students at PHS uncomfortable and most students could feel victimized or bullied, as PHS administration was essentially clearing Mr. Cowherd of all charges.

The hearsay in the community was that girls won’t speak up about harassment, that current students weren’t aware of why Mr. Cowherd was gone for three weeks, and that the power dynamic in the classroom was too high.

Another parent named Ester Rogers, came to the meeting with a prepared sign that read “#Me Too.”  The hashtag has been taking social media by storm, with anyone who has been sexually harassed. Rogers is a mother of two boys, and she was concerned with the impact Mr. Cowherd’s on not just the girls, but on the boys. Rogers made the point that boys can perceive that the girls would be treated differently than them, and that this would make a horrible precedent for the boys in Mr. Cowherd’s classes.

All of the speakers agreed with one another, overall stating that Mr. Cowherd should not have been allowed back into the classroom, and that the school has the duty to protect students in the learning environment.

Kim Hunter, a local Assistant District Attorney, took the stand and was outraged. Hunter was concerned with the PHS environment because the year before the school had issues with anti-semitism, a couple years earlier the school had issues with a fantasy football roster. Hunter made it clear that the voice of the children had to be heard, that the issue with Mr. Cowherd is a big deal and must be treated as such.

Annie Marshall, a local resident of Piedmont, decided to go to the School Board meeting precisely to discuss Mr. Cowherd, and to hopefully receive answers. Annie was not alone in learning new mind boggling information that the parents of some harassed student presented. Marshall was not surprised about events that transpired at the meeting, she claimed that these incidents have been going on for years. Annie Marshall a loving mother of two graduated kids, expressed her opinion on the matter, “ I just hope the School Board does the right thing.”  Marshall explained that she believed the disciplinary action that transpired was inadequate and further steps must be done. While Marshall did not make it clear on her further plan of action, it is safe to assume she was pleased with the ending results. The ending results being that on Friday, the twenty-seventh of October, Mr. Cowherd resigned.

by Madison Kunke, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~

On October 25th, I attended a School Board meeting, which was held at Piedmont City Hall. The School Board holds meetings twice a month to address issues concerning the Piedmont School District. The meeting was held in order to address the issues brought to the School Board. The issues discussed included: the salary of teacher assistant aides, the actions taken to remove history teacher Mr. Cowherd from classroom settings, CAB refinancing, H1 updates and announcements.

The first major issue addressed during this meeting was the low salaries of teacher assistant aides. Mrs. Ford, a teacher at Beach Elementary, noted that she has been working at Beach for 18 years. She told the audience that her aides are very important. She recalled that they help with yard duty, lunch duty, and help kids progress. She noted that in order for students to receive the most quality education, teachers’ aides adjust their work schedule to help the teacher execute her lesson plan. For example, for math class, Mrs Ford has a system where the class is divided into groups and each group works at a different station, learning a different mathematical skill. This system was specifically designed for the students. Mrs. Ford’s aide helps her with these rotations and also helps take over the class when kids are pulled aside to review their last test. Mrs. Ford went on to mention that one-on-one aides are very significant because they make school accessible to students with learning disabilities and these students’ success positively impacts the other students in the classroom. Mrs. Ford also noted that teacher aides have a very difficult yet important job. Everyday they have to listen to the teacher’s lessons and modify them so their student can easily comprehend the material. Their work is highly valued by the teachers yet their salary is small.

Teriss Alzer spoke on behalf of the Piedmont teacher aides and she noted that the School District’s administration has shown little value in their work and in their jobs. Ms. Alzer went on to note that teacher aides cannot live at poverty level anymore and they cannot be ignored. She said that this is the tipping point for teacher assistants and that they deserve respect and equal pay for equal work.

Jeff Verdano, a teacher assistant at Piedmont High School (PHS), noted that it is very expensive to live in the Bay Area, and as a result he has had to take up shifts at restaurants and drive Uber. He noted that he is passionate about his job and wants to continue doing his work, however, the pay is minimal.

Sarah Pearson, President of  the School Board, noted that she values and respects the teacher aides of Piedmont and that the School Board will look into the matter.

Another major issue discussed at the meeting was the manner in which the school officials addressed the sexual harassment allegations brought against Mr. Mark Cowherd. Mr. Cowherd teaches Modern World History, APUSH (Advanced Placement United States History), and AP Euro (Advanced Placement European History) at Piedmont High School.

Ms. Sherman, a high school parent, informed the attendees of the School Board meeting that during the AP Euro trip, last year, Mr. Cowherd had acted very inappropriately in front of her daughter, who graduated in 2017. Her daughter reported Mr. Cowherd after her graduation and soon afterward four other female students came forward with similar stories of sexual harassment. She said that these students stated that Mr. Cowherd had made sexual advances, had drunk alcohol when in their presence, had caressed their arms and shoulders, and had made inappropriate and sexual comments through text messaging and email.

Ms. Sherman set rumors to rest when she informed the audience that the reason the students waited until after graduation to report Mr. Cowherd was because they feared retaliation. Many of them had asked Mr. Cowherd for letters of recommendation and as seniors they knew that if they reported Mr. Cowherd he could withdraw his recommendation. Ms. Sherman also told the School Board that she was furious that Mr. Cowherd was investigated, found guilty, but allowed to return to school. Ms. Sherman noted that this is inexcusable.

Esther Rodgers, a member of the community and parent, told the audience that she has a son who is in Mr. Cowherd’s class. She expressed her concern to the School Board, noting that Mr. Cowherd, as a teacher, has a major impact on the young men in the classroom. If he creates an uncomfortable environment for everyone, this is detrimental to everyone’s learning. Ms. Rodgers also noted that people who have come forward need to be supported by the District. In her opinion, Mr. Cowherd should be kept away from students; he is a predatory teacher who should be immediately dismissed from the school faculty.

Kim Hunter, an Alameda County District Attorney, also spoke about the issue. Ms. Hunter works in molestation and she noted that in Piedmont there has been a chain of inexcusable behavior. First, there was the High School Fantasy Football Slut League. Then there was the anti-semitism assembly and now there is this conflict with sexual harassment at school. Ms. Hunter noted that children make mistakes and hopefully they will learn from them, but the first thing parents must do is listen to their children.

President Sarah Pearson addressed the audience and noted that the School Board is looking into the matter and that she is glad that so many members of the community were willing to come forward.

Another topic of discussion during the meeting was the H1 update. Mr. Brady told the School Board that there is now full documentation concerning the construction of the student building and the Alan Harvey Theater.

Brady also noted that there is a new policy called Board Policy 3290, which addresses the way in which the District names facilities. Mr. Brady informed the audience that the Board has the power to rename a District building. In addition, with the consent of the individual, the Board can name a facility in recognition of an outstanding individual who made a significant contribution to the school, to the community, or to the state.

The next topic of conversation was CAB – refinancing. The speaker, who did not identify himself, explained that in order to rebuild Havens Elementary, the School District had to take out a loan. The loan they took out was called a CAB. The speaker noted that taxes have increased among the community as well as property tax bills and therefore it is more reasonable for the District to refinance their loans for CAB loans are based on how much you house costs. In other words, the District should switch to a SIB loan.

School Board member Cory Smegal said that she appreciated his concern about the issue and that they will look into it.

To wrap up the discussion Mr. Booker, the Piedmont School Superintendent, noted that the District is opening up Article 6 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2018-2020, and they are opening retirement incentives. In addition, he also announced that the District is looking into revising the Working Budget.

 After the School Board meeting came to an end, I had a conversation with Sarah Wozniak about the topics discussed. Ms. Wozniak, the leader of Title 9 for the Piedmont School District, was at the Board meeting because she wanted to express her concerns regarding Mr. Cowherd. She informed us that after attending the meeting she felt very emotional. She also mentioned that she was proud to see the community show support for the girls who came forward against Mr. Cowherd. Ms. Wozniak also noted that the District will be talking about what happened and discussing what next step should be taken to address this matter in the next few days. She also said that her next step will be working with other high school students to discuss how students can confidently speak up about these matters.

Overall, I thought this meeting was very informational and I am glad that I attended it. Though I had a lot to say about the issues discussed during the meeting, I chose to not express my opinion because I did not feel comfortable announcing my opinion to the public on the matters presented.

I also spoke to Mr. Keller before and he recommended that I remain quiet during the Board meeting. But, if I were to have said anything during the meeting, I would have said that I am very proud of the girls who came forward in regards to Mr. Cowherd. I think it is very important that students feel safe at school and don’t feel they will be punished for making a complaint. Though I did not have Mr. Cowherd, I think that if Mr. Cowher made many young girls feel uncomfortable for several years, than he should be dismissed from the school faculty.

by Madison Aikawa, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~

On October 25, 2017, I attended an important School Board Meeting at City Hall in Piedmont. The School Board meets about twice a month and discusses important issues about the district. In the School Board meeting that I attended, they discussed an important matter that’s been going on for about two months with a well-known Piedmont High School history teacher, Mark Cowherd. Parents expressed their outrage about the teacher’s role in the District. In addition to the School Board Meeting, teachers from different schools from the Piedmont District discussed the CSCA and teacher aides better pay wage.

As the meeting began, parents and teachers were given the opportunity to speak upon an issue they were concerned about outside the agenda. It was a public opportunity where they could come up to the podium and propose an issue or topic and share it with the School Board. At this time, the meeting started with the topic of Communication and Announcements. As I continued to watch and observe, a third-grade teacher at Beach Elementary School, Alaleh Ford came up to the podium and spoke about teacher aides. A teacher’s aide is an individual who helps a teacher with instructional responsibilities. She spoke about the goals of being a teacher’s aide, which include setting goals, grouping, planning and higher chances of success. She spoke on how teacher aides spend time adjusting work schedules on Thursday and Friday to work on classwork longer and then rotate each week. They also spend time being accessible to students’ needs and make it easier for them. In speaking about teacher aides, she hopes to see teacher aides be supported by the District.

An important issue arose as the next speaker came to the podium to discuss the inappropriate actions by a well-known history teacher. A parent of a recent high school graduate and freshman college student, Lisa Sherman spoke about the troubles that her daughter faced from her AP Euro teacher, Mark Cowherd. She was surrounded by many supporters, parents who were concerned about the current situation. Some of the parents who supported Lisa’s protest held up signs that said, “#MeToo”. #MeToo is a hashtag that was created online to indicate that someone has experienced some form of sexual harassment. Her daughter and four other students reported that Mr. Cowherd had sexually harassed them when they were seniors. Lisa Sherman expressed her anger and feelings to the School Board and her concerns about the school community for students. She also mentioned that when her daughter first reported the incident, four other students have come out and spoken against Mr. Cowherd’s actions.

It was reported that on an AP European trip in February, last year, 2017, Mr. Cowherd drunkenly texted sexual things to one of his students who is a female, and it made her uncomfortable. She didn’t speak up at that time due to being afraid that with the power that Mr. Cowherd held as a teacher, both her grades and her letter of recommendation for colleges would be affected.

As Lisa Sherman’s daughter reported the incident and the other students spoke up, the School District had taken immediate action by investigating the matter. During the investigation, Mr. Cowherd was put on leave for three weeks before returning to his teaching duties. When Mr. Cowherd returned to school following the investigation, parents and current students from his class were sent a letter from Piedmont High School Principal Littlefield, welcoming back Mr. Cowherd. Lisa Sherman and other parents spoke against this letter as it was poorly written with bad word choices.  They felt their voices were not heard.

Lisa Sherman’s argued from past experiences that Mr. Cowherd inappropriately touched students on the shoulders, backs, and elbows and drank alcohol in front of students at various times. She also argued that students were uncomfortable with the nicknames given to them by the teacher.

It was also shared that some male students from Mr. Cowherd’s classes doubted her daughter’s claim and might think that Mr. Cowherd’s behavior was validated. With Mr. Cowherd’s power determine grades, write letters of recommendation, and physical custody of the student through the school hour would surely affect those students who were sexually harassed by the teacher, claimed Lisa Sherman. She also stated that students were intimidated by him, which made them uncomfortable and fear him.

After Lisa Sherman’s speech, a Deputy District Attorney from Alameda County, Kim Hunter, came to the podium. She argued against Mr. Cowherd’s actions and sided with the statements made by parents and the recent PHS graduates who reported the issue. She argued that the voices of the students need to be heard, not silenced. She shared her story of how she got molested and no one listened.

Some people tend to think that sexual harassment is not a big deal, but Kim Hunter says  that “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal!” No means no, and yes means yes. Sexual harassment is never ok and she strongly believes that we should listen more to the students and be by their side. She ended her speech by saying a powerful statement, “You get rid of him.”

Before the School Board meeting started, I got to interview a parent, Jamie Pehanick who was present during the meeting. She came because she wanted to hear what Lisa Sherman had to say about Mr. Cowherd’s actions. She mentioned that she was “disappointed in Mr. Cowherd’s inappropriate behavior.” She is concerned for the students, including her daughter, who currently attends school in Piedmont, about the conduct of Mr. Cowherd.  She was also concerned about the school’s “due process and law and regulations” and wanted changes. She believes the administration’s letter wasn’t properly written and the administration should have answered the parents and students questions regarding the situation.

I know by her reaction that she would be pleased with the turnout from the meeting and hopes that the School Board and the District will do the right thing.

In my opinion, I could only hear enough facts and arguments presented by parents against Mr. Cowherd. I personally don’t know Mark Cowherd, as I never had him as a teacher, so I can’t say where I stand with the situation.  But I do believe that what’s best for him is to resign and not face the students, if he were to come back from his second leave.

I don’t condone sexual harassment. It’s never okay. I do believe that the word choice in the letter written to the students and parents welcoming back Mr. Cowherd was poorly written and it could have been stated better. I believe that the first investigation should have taken longer than three weeks to investigate the situation and that the situation should have been addressed to the current students in his class in the beginning. Sexual harassment cases should be taken seriously and not get shut down in a short amount time following the reporting.

What Mr. Cowherd did was not acceptable. His behavior and his conduct should be penalized. Mr. Cowherd has subsequently been placed on his second leave and second investigation.

The next day, a Consent Assembly took place at Piedmont High School for the freshman and the seniors to discuss why it’s important to have consent in sexual relationships. Near the end of the assembly, Principal Littlefield came up to the stage and addressed the situation with Mr. Cowherd to the freshman and seniors. He announced that Mr. Cowherd is on his second leave and a second investigation was issued. He also spoke about the letter and mentioned that the letter was written poorly with bad word choices and could have been addressed better. On Friday afternoon, The Piedmont Highlander, school newspaper, announced that Mr. Cowherd had now resigned from his teaching duties.

by Eesha Shah, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.
Nov 5 2017

Wireless Communication Facilities –

On October second, Piedmont City Council had a meeting discussing the installation of wireless communication facilities. The Piedmont City Council meets every two weeks to discuss issues in Piedmont. This particular meeting was mainly devoted to discussing the wireless communications facilities to be installed.

The meeting started with all members of the Council speaking about the issue of wireless communication. They discussed the Telecommunication Act which decides the safe height for the towers, which emit radio fields. They also introduced all seven of the wireless communication facilities locations in Piedmont.

The Council then opened the discussion to the audience. Crown Castle, the company installing the wireless towers, spoke first. They mainly pointed out the benefits of the towers: Increasing the signal strength on cell phones throughout Piedmont and the ability to call 911 anywhere in Piedmont.

The residents of Piedmont then voiced their concerns on the issue of wireless communication facilities. The two main points brought up by the residents were the towers bringing down property values, and the health issues of the towers.

One resident presented a survey from the National Realtors Association saying people are twenty percent less likely to buy a house in front of or across from a cell tower. She also said that the price of her home is likely to decrease twenty percent because of the cell tower.

One of the health issues brought to the attention of the Council was the radiation given off by these towers. These towers have an EMF, electromotive force, of about five to thirteen feet which could cause radiation poisoning. This is a major health concern for people that live close to these towers. Another speaker said the towers cause leukemia and cancer in children and adults.

After listening to the speakers at the meeting, I would have to agree with their concerns. I believe the wireless communication facilities are not needed in the city of Piedmont and the many negatives outweigh the positives for the city. These towers do not seem to be a necessity for all Piedmont families and residents.

Interview:

After the meeting was over I interviewed John Randall. Mr. Randall has been a Piedmont resident for over 20 years. He was at the meeting to listen to the issues about the wireless communication facilities. His main concern was about the health issues the towers bring. He told me, “Some of the health issues are respiratory issues, radiation poisoning, increased chromosome aberrations, cause of cancer in children and adults, and other detrimental illnesses.”

Randall learned about where the towers are being placed around Piedmont, and he will continue to come to meetings to talk about what he thinks is right in the city of Piedmont. He is not afraid to voice his opinion to the City Council of Piedmont.

From what I have observed during the meeting, many people at the meeting agree with Mr. Randall’s position that cell towers are dangerous to have in Piedmont due to health concerns.

by Julian Turner, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Nov 4 2017

Monday, November 6, 7:30 p.m., City Hall

The City Council will hear and consider approving a first reading of two resolutions to issue City of Piedmont Limited Obligation Refunding Bonds not to exceed $4,115,000.  The original bonds were for the expense of putting utility wires underground in three neighborhoods of Piedmont.

Questions raised by the public:

  1. Will the approximate $2.4 paid for by the City to cover the costs overruns of the Piedmont Hills Undergrounding District be a part of the refunding toward reimbursing the City?
  2. Will any of the refunding proceeds go toward returning balances to the PG&E funds for undergrounding in other areas of the City?
  3. How are the City administrative and legal costs to execute the bond refunding included in the bond refunding?
  4. Is there a guarantee that the City will not be responsible for any bond failures or costs, including administrative or legal?

Agenda item 5.

Take the following actions related to the refinancing of limited obligation bonds issued
for the Dudley/Blair/Mountain/Pacific/Hagar & Vicinity Undergrounding Assessment District; Wildwood/Crocker Avenues Undergrounding Assessment District; and the
Piedmont Hills Underground Assessment District:
Staff recommends that the City Council take the following action:
1.
Approve a resolution appointing a finance team for the issuance, sale and delivery of City of Piedmont Limited Obligation Refunding Bonds and adopting a Debt
Management Policy as required by state law.
2.
Conduct a first reading of Ordinance 736 N.S., which authorizes the issuance, sale and delivery of limited obligation refunding bonds not to exceed $4,115,000.
Over seven years ending in 2009 the Council authorized the creation of three Undergrounding Assessment Districts in the following areas of the City:
(i)
Dudley/Blair/Mountain/Pacific/Hagar & Vicinity Undergrounding Assessment
District Limited Obligation Improvement Bonds, Series 2002-A,
(ii)
Wildwood/Crocker Avenues Undergrounding Assessment District Limited
Obligation Improvement Bonds, Series 2005-A, and
(iii)
Piedmont Hills Underground Assessment District Limited Obligation Improvement Bonds Series 2009- A.
Read the staff report HERE.
Nov 1 2017

“Something’s got to change” –

Last week, Captain Chris Monahan and I had the opportunity to attend the Consent Assembly held at the Alan Harvey Theater on the Piedmont High School campus. I had heard about the assembly, which features student actors portraying real-life accounts of teen sexual assault and sex related themes told by former students, and was appreciative to have been invited by a PHS teacher but was not prepared for how impactful the delivery was to be. Standing in the theater, listening to the traumatic experiences of sexual assault that were conveyed by students on the stage, I experienced the hair on the back of my neck standing up and a mix of sadness, anger, and familiarity. These feeling arose from my experience as a former sexual assault detective and with the victims I tried to obtain justice for.

I learned that the assembly has been a tradition since 2006 and had the feeling that as impacted as I felt, the students in the building must have been even more so since it was their classmates they saw up on stage as the conduit for others’ experiences. I also left the assembly asking myself, “Why, with this tradition of impactful delivery, does the Police Department continue to get the reports of sexual assault that it does?” One answer was provided by a Millennium High School student I talked with about the assembly a day or two after. I asked her the same question and the answer she provided was brilliant and simple. She believed the increase in awareness, and the need to do something about it, was the reason I might be receiving more reports. I think she may be right.

Fresh off last week’s high school-wide introspective, two separate parties were held at private residences in town this past weekend, both of which resulted in a high school-aged female being taken by ambulance to a hospital for excessive alcohol consumption. Both heads of household seemingly had the best of intentions and put measures in place that they thought would deal with uninvited guests, prevent alcohol and other illegal substances from being used, and that would generally keep a close eye on activities to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Unfortunately, despite these measures, two young people went to the hospital, and the scary thing is, they got off easy compared to what could have happened. Thinking back to last week’s Consent Assembly, impairment due to alcohol or other substances was a significant factor in the victimization that was depicted.

As a parent, is a party with 40 to 50 kids necessary? If the answer is yes, then be realistic about what you’re inviting. If you are going to allow or host a party with a large number of teenagers, understand that they will more than likely try to bring alcohol or drugs with them. The level of adult oversight at a party goes beyond “just being there”. Depending on the size of the party and number of kids in attendance, multiple adults need to not just be in attendance, but they need to be actively paying attention and be present to observe what’s going on. Talk to your child about the guests they want to invite and take the initiative to manage the guest list. Check backpacks and any containers that are being brought. I understand that these measures may embarrass your child and take you a couple notches down on the cool meter but unless that happens you should expect bad results.

I’ve heard the philosophy that parents want to provide a “safe place” for teenagers to do their thing because “they’re going to do it anyway”, but that reasoning is flawed for the simple fact the kids aren’t going to be staying at the party location. Inevitably they leave to walk or drive home, to a friend’s house, or who knows where. Let me be unequivocal for those parents or guardians who may be of the mind to be complicit with allowing or providing alcohol or other illicit drug use, you will be held criminally accountable by this Police Department. Officers will also be assessing the individual dynamics of parties they are called to and will be using existing city ordinances when appropriate, including the use of administrative fines. We are not taking this stance to be punitive or overly authoritarian. This is about the welfare and safety of this community’s children.

I am working through these issues as well, as I have children and understand the need to allow them to grow, let off steam and learn to deal with real-life, adult, situations. None of us have all the answers on how to navigate these issues in the safest manner, but together, with continued dialog and a sense of purpose, we can get better at helping our teens and each other navigate these dynamics.

Jeremy Bowers, Piedmont Chief of Police

Nov 1 2017

City of Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan Presentation and Community Workshop – Agenda is below.

On November 7th, the City of Piedmont Planning Department and the Climate Action Plan Task Force will host a community workshop. The workshop will include a presentation of Piedmont’s draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) update, presentations on Piedmont’s carbon footprint, focus group discussions, and information on how Piedmont residents can act as agents of local climate change prevention and mitigation.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, from 7:30 – 9:00 pm, at the Piedmont Community Hall, 711 Highland Avenue. 

The Climate Action Plan Taskforce has met monthly since March to advise staff regarding updates and improvements to Piedmont’s CAP, which was completed in 2010 with goals through 2020. The revised and updated CAP consists of measures that Piedmont residents, business owners, the municipal government and the public and private schools can take to bring Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions in
line with State emissions reduction targets. The updated plan incorporates current best practices, includes a new section dedicated to climate adaptation and an increased focus on community engagement, since the majority of Piedmont’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by residential buildings and private vehicles.

Minutes and other materials for previous Climate Action Plan Taskforce meetings are posted on the City website at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/committees/captf.shtml

The final draft of the Plan is expected to be provided to City Council in December of 2017 as an initial step towards the Plan’s adoption in early 2018.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“All community members are encouraged to attend Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) Workshop. As a primarily residential community, we will only reach California greenhouse gas emission reduction targets if residents take action to reduce their transportation, home energy and other carbon emissions. Since March, a Taskforce of residents and City staff has been drafting a new CAP for Piedmont. The workshop will highlight new consumption-based measures and the potential for Piedmonters to be getting up 100% of their electricity from renewable sources through the newly-formed East Bay Community Energy. Together, we can be agents of local climate change prevention and mitigation.”                    Margaret Ovenden, Member of Piedmont Climate Action Plan Taskforce

Come learn about Piedmont’s new Climate Action Plan and the central role that residents must play if Piedmont is going to reach California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.*

Speakers & Agenda:

  • Overview of Piedmont’s New Climate Action Plan — Taskforce Members and Staff

  • A Consumption-Based Model of Piedmont’s Carbon Footprint: Comparison with Other East Bay Cities — Chris Jones, Program Director, CoolClimate Network, UC Berkeley

  • Introducing East Bay Community Energy: Options for Up to 100% of Our Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources, Starting in 2018 — Tim Rood, Piedmont City Council

  • Putting the ACTION into Climate Action: Lessons from Other Communities — Sarah Moe, Senior Consultant, DNV-GL

  • Q&A

  • Small Group Discussion: What are the most challenging greenhouse gas reduction measures for your family to implement? How can Piedmonters support each other as we take action together?

Hosted by: City of Piedmont Climate Action Plan Taskforce

For more info: Mira Hahn, Assistant Planner, mhahn@piedmont.ca.gov or Cody Ericksen, CivicSpark Climate Fellow, cericksen@piedmont.ca.gov or Margaret Ovenden, Task Force’s Outreach Sub-committee movenden452@gmail.com

* The large majority of emissions in Piedmont come from residences and residents’ transportation activities. Businesses, the City and the School District play a smaller role.

For more information about the CAP or to be added to the project’s email list, please contact Assistant Planner Mira Hahn at mhahn@piedmont.ca.gov or (510) 420-3054.

Cody Ericksen, CivicSpark Climate Fellow, City of Piedmont, CA    (510) 420-3085 – cericksen@piedmont.ca.gov

Nov 1 2017

What did students observe at the School Board meeting of October 25, 2017? 

The Piedmont Unified School District Board meeting on October 25th took place at City Hall, beginning at 7:00 pm, one of the bimonthly meetings that take place on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.

Upon arriving fifteen minutes early, no seats were to be had and the room was packed with people lining up in the hallway and scrambling for seats in the overflow rooms. This meeting was so popular because of the unofficial topic on the schedule, sexual harassment allegations about a Piedmont High School teacher, Mr. Mark Cowherd.

The meeting opened up with Gabe Kessler, a core teacher at Piedmont Middle School and the President of the Associated Piedmont Teachers [APT], expressing his support for the teachers’ aides and their fight to receive higher wages as they negotiate their contract. Mr. Kessler also talked about the challenges of deciding on an instructional calendar for the 2018-2019 school year, as each calendar works better for different students.

After the meeting, I talked to Mr. Gabe Kessler about this, and he said that it “was one of the harder things because there are elements of every calendar that work and elements that don’t.”  He also said that he wants to continue to show his support for the teacher aides and will continue to do so as the President of the APT, and as a teacher who is supported by the aides. Lastly, he said that he was also there to better understand what the community was feeling about Mr. Cowherd, although it would be inappropriate for him to comment on that further.

Mr. Kessler was followed by Ms. Ford, a third grade teacher, who also demonstrated her support for teachers’ aides, listing multitude reasons why they are essential in the classroom. For example, in one lesson, an aide will be listening to the lesson, picking the essential parts of it, modifying the lesson for the student they’re working with, and helping them understand. All of this done simultaneously. Finally, Ms. Ford said that these aides cannot afford to stay and live in Piedmont because they aren’t being paid enough even though they are most important.

After Ms. Foster spoke, Teris Alzer, a teacher’s aide, spoke on behalf of the CSEA and other teacher’s aides about their contract negotiation and what concerns aides have. She said that they want to be able to provide for families and kids and want to be cared for as employees. David Brobali and Jeffrey Verdano, both teacher’s aides, also spoke and said that they want to continue to work in Piedmont, but can’t even afford to live here on just this salary and sometimes work extra jobs.

The School Board then decided to move to the items not listed on the agenda, as there were so many people gathered to speak and support those talking about the sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Mark Cowherd.

First to speak was Lisa Sherman, the parent of Natalie Stollman, one of the students who filed a complaint against Mr. Cowherd. Ms. Sherman described how her daughter had the courage to say something, yet after receiving a letter that said Mr. Cowherd was being welcomed back to school after three weeks of administrative leave, she felt ignored and disregarded. She also said that there should have been a counselor to check in on her and other students, making sure she felt okay. Finally, Ms. Sherman expressed concern over how the student body views Mr. Cowherd’s return, for it can be inferred that what he did wasn’t wrong or that they won’t be listened to when they bring up a concern about a teacher.

Esther Rogers, also a parent to Piedmont students, followed Ms. Sherman, stating that she was there to support Natalie and her mother. She said that she sent out an email the night before telling people about the School Board’s decision and actions and wanted to rally support for this meeting.  Ms. Rogers also raised concerns about the impact this decision has on boys in the classroom, as the teasing sets a bad example. She wondered what we, as a community, are saying when we allow a teacher to remain in the classroom when it has been concluded that he does tease and people are uncomfortable with that.

After Esther Rogers, eight more people stood up and spoke to show support, each telling of a time when their son or daughter felt bullied or uncomfortable in Mr. Cowherd’s class. Most notable was Kim Hunter, who is an Alameda County District Attorney, who said that the community needs to take a stand and can’t ignore these stories. Additionally, Ms. Hunter said that even a seventeen year old is still a child and when you ignore this, you perpetuate the idea that this is okay.

As everyone finished speaking, Ms. Rogers asked those attending the meeting to show their support for Natalie to walk through the main hall.

After most people left the meeting, Michael Brady gave an H1 update, a bond that is discussed at every School Board meeting. H1 aims to fix the gaps in the education system. At this meeting, new ways to name and build new buildings and facilities were discussed, with a full description found on the District website.

Then, Mr. Booker began to talk about CAB refinancing and the two page summary that was put out to the community and can also be found on the District website.

Amal Smith said that she had received eight emails about switching from CAB to SIB. A member of the audience who did not state his name also talked, saying that if they refinanced the CAB in 2032, 22.89 million dollars would be saved later, as opposed to refinancing now, which would only save 19 million dollars now. He said that this point wasn’t very clear in what was sent out to the community and he was worried the community wasn’t aware of this. He was also disturbed that CABs were put back on the table when the majority of the community wants SIBs. He was also worried about a recent tax increase of about 1,000 dollars on many Piedmont homes.

At this point, all of us students there were completely lost and had no clue what was being said around us, so I asked what all of that meant. Mr. Booker explained that when the District rebuild Havens, they borrowed money and that CABs and SIBs were ways to pay back the loan and that they were looking at which was the better one.

After explaining CABs and SIBs, Mr. Booker went on to discuss an open hearing for APT and opening a hearing on the contract to discuss benefits, retirement and disability benefits found in Article 10 and Article 6 that can be found online at the District website. He also invites the community to email the Board Members about this.

The Board then voted on the 2017-2018 working budget, which passed, and the Board gave their reports and announcements, essentially reporting to others what they had done in the community since they last met, and what they were planning on doing.

Overall, this School Board meeting was intense, but hopeful, as the community rallied together around each other to reach a common goal, I have no doubt that the School Board will take the feedback into consideration and respond accordingly.

by Emma Ziegler, Piedmont High School Senior

~~~~~~~~~~~~

On October 25th, 2017, the School Board met in the Council Chambers at City Hall for the School Board Meeting, that occurs twice a month. The official purpose of this meeting was to discuss teacher aides, the CSEA wages, the future of named facilities at Piedmont High School, and refinancing bonds. Additionally, many members of the community brought forward their concerns and grievances regarding History teacher, Mr. Mark Cowherd.

The first major issue brought up was wage of teacher aides. Alaleh Ford, a third grade teacher at Beach School, described her experience with teacher aide and how integral teacher aides are. Ms. Ford’s teaching style is dependent on rotations, where she teachers two-thirds of the class and her teacher aide teaches the other third. Ms. Ford’s teacher aide also helps go over the successes and mistakes on tests, with each student individually. This same teacher aide “does yard duty, lunch duty, goes to 3 other teachers in a day… [and] stays longer after school.” Despite their hard work, Ms. Ford feels teacher aides are undervalued and cannot afford to stay, with many aides leaving only after a few years.

The next issue brought up was the California School Employees Association (CSEA) contract negotiations. Terra Salazar, the president of Chapter 60 CSEA, felt their workers were not treated fairly or respectfully. She was suported by Gabriel Kessler, David Pinvolly, and Jeffrey Dreadon. She pointed to the job descriptions that had not been changed for over a decade, despite the changing educational environment.

Maureen Rhodin, the District Data Coordinator, added that the CSEA had not been assigned any Board liaisons, despite there being 2 liaisons for the Association of Piedmont Teachers and 7 for Parent Clubs and Organizations.

Ms. Salazar stated “we have been pressured to do more with less and we’ve done it… [because] our students need us”. While Ms. Salazar acknowledged the budget was looking “bleak”, she still believed that their workers deserve higher wages.

The biggest issue discussed was the offensive conduct of a Mr. Mark Cowherd, a Piedmont High School history teacher. Many parents, such as Lisa Sherman, Esther Rodgers, Cara Michaels, Hope Salzer, Janice Sheldon, Pamela Grewal, Carol James, Guy Van Guano, and Vincent Vasulo, as well as an Alameda County District Attorney, Kim Hunter, were fearful of how this would set the wrong example for Piedmont students, and felt that Mr. Cowherd should not have been let back into the classroom. Ms. Sheldon and Ms. James both claimed Mr. Cowherd’s conduct has been an issue for a long time, with Ms. Sheldon calling a parent about Mr. Cowherd three years ago.

One of the major problems was the tone of the letter sent after Mr. Cowherds return to school. Many of the parents say that it “welcomes him back.”  Ms. Sherman, the parent of one of the students that brought forward evidence against Mr. Cowherd, believed this would discourage girls from speaking up against sexual harassment, while teaching boys that there is no punishment.

In an interview, Jamie Pehanick, a concerned Piedmont parent, believed that the regulations at school should be changed. She, like many others came, to the meeting to show her support for the parents as well as the students who spoke out against Mr. Cowherd, specifically Lisa Sherman. She personally disapproved of both Mr Coward’s actions and the letter that welcomed him back. Overall, she was “pleased with how [the School Board Meeting] turned out.”

    In another topic, Michael Brady, the Bond Program Coordinator, discussed the naming of school facilities. Mr. Brady stated the Board of Education has all rights to naming facilities. This includes renaming facilities and adding new names. A facility could be trees, memorials, buildings, or even parts of buildings. New facility names may come from donations or they may be generated by the community, and given to the Board for consideration. In the upcoming construction of Piedmont High School, memorials will be preserved. However, there may also be requests to remove some memorials, such as the removal many past eagle scout projects. This topic was mainly covered to give the Board information, for future feedback.

    The last major topic covered in the meeting was the refinancing of bonds. There were two options a Capital Appreciation Bond (CAB) to a Current Interest Bond (SIB) or a CAB to CAB (CAB and SIB are to different types of bonds). Estimates project a higher tax savings if the Board waits to refinance. However, this is assuming interest rates continue the trend of going down. If the Board chooses to wait, they may save $40 million dollars, instead of the $24 million dollars if they refinance sooner.

    In my opinion, the problems the parents had did not lie in Mr. Cowherd’s case, but the laws and regulations dealing with the case governed the case.  Much of Mr. Cowherd’s actions were spread by word of mouth, or through unofficial documents, which only added fuel to the fire. The Board should have had more power to deal with the issue, such as revealing more information on the case or clearing up any misunderstandings. Parents should not have to go to City Hall to call for further action.

by Lyndon Torio, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.